Consider the following two, distilled, points of view:

Statement 1:

“Big Data Analytics is going to change the way we do business. Sure, a lot of it will be routine “I’m okay!” status updates from sensors, but making sense of the key parts of it, like “help me, I’m failing”, will be extremely useful. Companies that were previously exempt from competing on analytics will be disrupted by new entrants who will compete better, either by being more effective or being more efficient. Big Data Analytics is already having a disruptive impact in marketing, where it never used to before, and is gaining huge traction in medicine. There is reason to believe that Big Data Analytics will cause better decision making in the organizations that chose to invest both in the physical infrastructure and in the cultural infrastructure that’s required to truly succeed.”

Statement 2:

“All the big industries that rely on data already have Big Data. Airlines, casinos, Internet arbitrage firms, logistics firms and especially finance already have all the data they need. Indeed, all of that data has made them dumber, not smarter. In fact, even in those sectors, there’s little evidence that executives use all of that data to make substantially better decisions, especially when it comes to big strategic decision making. Did anybody see the economy after 2008? This is all just a second wind of hype coming from the Business Intelligence industry, which has so far failed to make anybody smarter. Don’t buy the hype. The companies that have long competed on analytics, since the 1960’s, have nothing new to learn from this next wave of Big Data Analytics. Just ask the line managers what they need, they’ll tell you.”

Game of Trolls

It’s not fair to label those who hold statement 1 to be true as blind Gartner Hype Cycle finger clicking optimists out to make twelve points on the next deal.

And, it’s not fair to label those who hold statement 2 to be true as See-I-Told-You-So get off my lawn here we go again curmudgeons.

It is fair to say that some among us are trolling.

Let’s not play the troll the game, at least, not for this week.

Let’s assume that both statements contain truth.

Four Questions:

  • Did anything really go wrong with Business Intelligence generally and Web Analytics specifically?
  • Where does the assumption that better data causes better decisions come from?
  • Is that assumption credible?
  • What questions really matter that would cause statement 1 to come true and mitigate the concerns expressed in statement 2?

Two statements, four questions. 

Which is really right, and under which circumstances?


I’m Christopher Berry.
I tweet about analytics @cjpberry
I write at